Berlin Poised To Annex Sliver Of Tyson Property

SNOW HILL – Six years and many plans later, the defunct Tyson chicken plant may soon see new life as a commercial property.

The original vision for a mixed-use development built on the site has given way to simply seeking a commercial tenant for the 60,000-square-foot existing building, explained developer and Berlin Councilman Troy Purnell, owner of Berlin Properties North (BPN).

“The balance of it could be just about anything,” said Purnell.

Last week, the annexation of the old chicken plant buildings into the town of Berlin began with the first reading of the annexation resolution by the Berlin Mayor and Council.

Purnell is asking for the land to be down-zoned to B-3, general business, which would allow nearly any commercial enterprise on site. The land is currently zoned industrial.

“I’d love to see a mixed use of restaurants and offices. People have suggested a microbrewery,” Purnell said.

The use or uses of the space need to be compatible with the town, he said.

“The roof is in good condition. The buildings are in fine shape. We just need a tenant,” said Purnell.

The project, once called Crossroads and slated to include 100,000 square feet of commercial and over 250 residential units, is now just being called the Tyson development until a tenant takes it on.

Purnell said he has had some preliminary inquiries but no serious interest yet.

“It feels good,” Purnell said on finally making some progress with the site. “We’ll get something done with it.”

The Tyson plant has been the subject of many discussions over annexation and potential wastewater service in the several years since the plant closed and the Tyson property was bought by Berlin Properties North in July 2003.

Early on, the Tyson building’s industrial wastewater plant was touted as a potential second sewer plant for the town of Berlin, which had been attempting to sort out an approach to a required wastewater plant expansion. Two wastewater plants in Berlin were later deemed unfeasible, however.

Plans originally called for BPN to start from scratch, razing the existing buildings and starting over with the mixed-use Crossroads development, but after 16 months of working with the town of Berlin on annexation, BPN could not wait any longer.

Purnell then approached Worcester County with his plans for the site, including a major rezoning, in hand.

The county preferred that BPN and Berlin find a compromise, however.

In March 2006, BPN and Berlin wrestled with issues over the electric supply from the town, which delayed progress on the original Crossroads plan.

Purnell then proposed building an $8 million residential wastewater plant to serve the development on the former Tyson property.

A year later, in March 2007, the town of Berlin and BPN had reached an agreement in principle, though not a binding agreement, to annex the site, and allow the separate wastewater plant. Purnell warned at the time that if the Crossroads project could not go ahead, he would be forced to consider leasing or selling the land for industrial purposes.

At that time, he said he’d attempted four or five annexation agreements with the town, and all of them had been shot down.

In December 2007, Purnell told the Berlin Mayor and Council that he would not pursue a second plant, waiting instead on the expanded Berlin wastewater plant approved by Worcester County that month.

In February 2008, Purnell asked to restart negotiations over the annexation agreement, under the one-plant scenario.

The result of those negotiations surfaced last week, with the first reading of the annexation resolution.

The annexation would only bring in four acres of the roughly 60-acre former Tyson property, which covers the area with the standing plant buildings. The 36 EDUs needed are now available, according to the town.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams called the annexation agreement under consideration “very standard.”

The annexation proposal will be reviewed by both the Maryland Department of Planning and Worcester County.

The town council will hold a public hearing on the proposed annexation on July 27 during the regular town council meeting. Written comment will be accepted at any time before that day.

The town council then has the option of voting that night on the annexation proposal. If the annexation is approved, citizens against the move can ask for a referendum.